07 MAY 2003

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Alfred Sant expected to win with 75 per cent of the vote

When Labour Party delegates are called to express their vote on 15 May to select the person to lead the party, it is widely expected that Alfred Sant will win but his vote will not be higher than 75 per cent.
The voting pattern for Sant, a far cry from the almost 100 per cent approval in the 1998 post-election general conference, is expected to send a message that the party needs a dramatic change.
The rest of the vote will be split half way between Anglu Farrugia and John Attard Montalto. This was divulged to this newspaper after the stormy meeting that kicked off last Monday and went on until the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The two contestants to Harvard University graduate Alfred Sant may not win the contest but may unknowingly dent the future status of Alfred Sant, who has vowed to fight on despite his growing unpopularity.
Both contenders are emulating British Conservative politician Michael Heseltine, who fought it out with Margaret Thatcher. Heseltine did not win but effectively crystallised the beginning of the end of Thatcher’s career.
John Attard Montalto is considered to be an ideal candidate for the middle class voters whereas Anglu Farrugia appeals more to the traditional Labour voter. But both promise to change the party and take it out of its rut.
The Monday joint meeting between the national executive and the parliamentary group was according to sources close to the inner core, stage managed to allow John Attard Montalto to retreat into defence mode. The meeting was full of flak in the direction of Attard Montalto and led to the Sant clan coming together to query his true intentions.
Though no alliance exists between Attard Montalto and Anglu Farrugia it is clear that their sacrifice in the leadership may open the way for a future contestant or perhaps the return of George Abela, the charismatic former deputy leader of the Labour party.
But yesterday a member present at the Monday executive said that the Alfred Sant clan had a hold on the way the party was acting and would do everything possible to rout out any dissidence.
"The way the party is being run, is more akin to a Stalinist regime, if Sant stays we are doomed and the Nationalist party will be re-elected once again."
And yet none of the national executive members and Labour parliamentarians are so explicit as to spell out the future to Alfred Sant. The majority prefer to whisper in the ears of journalists and colleagues.
The only concrete appeal for Sant to step down came from none other than his 1998 nemesis, Dom Mintoff. Speaking in front of a sparse crowd at a meeting held in Birgu on Monday, Mintoff ran roughshod over Sant’s leadership without mentioning the man’s name once.
There is no mistaking the tone of Mintoff’s criticism. The Old Man will continue to create trouble for Sant and the Labour Party. His criticism rings a bell with die-hard Labourites who cannot stomach a change of policy on the EU. And with such an attitude Mintoff may pose to be a nuisance for any new leader the Labour Party may have.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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